Last month Australian giant Thon Maker had every college coach in the NCAA drooling when he announced to the world he would leave high school early to attend college. The upcoming months the Mike Krzyzewski’s and and John Calipari’s of the world try their best to develop a relationship with the young star in attempts to wear blue and white for their school, problem is they probably have never heard quite a story like the one of Thon Maker.
Thon was born in what is now South Sudan. His uncle, a local government administrator, made arrangements for him, his younger brother, Matur, and his aunt to escape the Sudanese civil war to Uganda when Thon was just five years old. From there, they were accepted as refugees by Australia. From there, the moved to Perth, Western Australia where the family eventually made their permanent home.
When he was 14, Maker was discovered by Edward Smith, an Australian benefactor who helps migrant/refugee children receive opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t get. Smith had previously helped fellow Sudanese expatriate athletes Mathiang Muo and Ater Majok, and subsequently offered Thon’s aunt to feed, clothe and educate him in Sydney. At that time Thon was spending his time playing soccer, and had never played basketball a day in his life. Once arriving in Sydney, however, Thon played basketball for the St. George Basketball Association during 2011 where his combination of size and athleticism led him to be a dominant force on the court. Just before the team’s playoffs, however, Maker and Smith left the country to attend an elite basketball talent camp in Texas.
Once in the US, Maker attended two schools in Louisiana before eventually matriculating to Martinsville, VA, and the Carlisle School. As a freshman in 2012–13 playing varsity team, Thon averaged a very impressive 23.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 4.9 blocked shots. The following season, Maker averaged 21.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 4.2 blocks.
In 2014, Maker and his brother both left Virginia, and enrolled at the Athlete Institute in Ontario, CAN, following Smith, who now holds a position there as an assistant coach.
Maker’s shooting ability and athleticism have had high-major D1 coaches knocking down his door for some time now. He now holds offers from nearly every blue-blood college basketball program. The rare combination of size and skill that Thon possesses has NCAA coaches and NBA GMs giddy.
Hoopsscoop.com had this to say about the talented big man:
Extremely agile, athletic and gifted 7 footer that has limitless potential. Possesses smooth ball handling skills for a big man, with the ability to go from coast to coast or even break down defenders 1-on-1. He uses his length to his advantage, finishing above the rim with ease or even squaring up and shooting jumpers from mid to long range. Defensively he can be just as dominant, blocking shots (4.2 BPG) with reckless abandon and using his length to grab rebounds (13.3 RPG) and excel at protecting the rim. He’s only 17 years old, so he could end up being 7’2″ or more by the time he starts playing college ball.
Still pretty raw since he didn’t start playing basketball until he was 12 years old. He often appears out of place inside and lacks a set of go-to moves in the post, which raises questions about whether or not he’ll be able to play the center position at the next level. One of his biggest issues is how many contested shots he opts to take, especially from long range which has dramatically impacted his 3 point efficiency. It’s vital he adds more weight to his wiry frame, as he’s bound to struggle against larger big men inside once he faces stiffer competition.
Recently, Maker has been the talk of college recruiting, as he made it known in late February that he was going to make an attempt to re-classify to graduate in 2015. Needless to say, college coaches searching for a versatile big man have taken notice. Much of the internet chatter these days seems to center around three schools; Kentucky, Kansas, and Indiana.
First, Indiana is in dire need of some quality size in the front court. Whenever Indiana has played a team this season with a dominant post presence, they’ve struggled. Having someone with Maker’s size and athletic ability would certainly help in that area, and needless to say, playing time is readily available.
Secondly, Indiana has had two big men go in the NBA draft lottery in the last two seasons. That certainly has not gone unnoticed in recruiting circles.
Finally, Indiana makes no secret that they value players that are versatile, and can play and defend multiple positions. With his speed and athletic ability, Maker certainly fits that bill. Furthermore, Indiana’s offense would definitely be the perfect fit for a big man that likes to slash and score from the perimeter, but has the ability to post up inside and command the double team as well.
The Thon Maker story is the most interesting of any High School recruit in the last five years due to the combination of incredible ability, his unique upbringing and the fact his basketball development has been influence by three different continents Africa, Australia and North America.
Thon Maker has a chance to change Basketball with his decisions on what country to play for in the Olympics and not if, by when he chooses the play in the NBA.